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'The dream come true': Carol Jantsch and her life with the tuba

When she was in middle school, Carol Jantsch had one week to learn how to play a high D on the tuba.

The conductor of the Interlochen Arts Camp's Intermediate Orchestra had assigned her Igor Stravinsky's "Petrushka." He verified that she could play the opening A-flat, but the subsequent D above that A-flat was a surprise to her.

"I don't know if it was a trick or an oversight, but it worked," she said. "I had the high D by the end of the week."

Carol Jantsch rehearses at Interlochen Arts Camp in the summer of 1995
Interlochen Center for the Arts
Carol Jantsch rehearses at Interlochen Arts Camp in the summer of 1995

That conductor likely saw something in Jantsch, who won her role as principal tuba of the Philadelphia Orchestra during her senior year at the University of Michigan, when she was just 20 years old.

"There was quite a shift to the pace of my life, going from being an undergrad to being in a major orchestra," she said. "But it's been the dream come true."

But for young musicians who want to follow in her footsteps, she says there's no "secret sauce."

The main reason Jantsch thinks she was able to accomplish so much so early? "I'm stubborn and opinionated," she said, laughing. "You have to have a really strong opinion about how you want to sound and what you want to communicate with your music on your instrument. If you're convinced by what you play, then you'll be better able to convince other people."

She's also learned that rejection isn't always a bad thing. Jantsch auditioned for Tanglewood one summer when she was in college and didn't get in, so instead she went to Bar Harbor Brass Week in Maine.

The person who heard her audition for Bar Harbor was Blair Bollinger, who is now her colleague in the Philadelphia Orchestra. On the basis of that audition, he recommended that she audition for the Philadelphia Orchestra as well.

She did get to go to Tanglewood eventually, though: the Philadelphia Orchestra performed a guest concert there the summer after she joined the ensemble.

In addition to her career as a performer and educator, Jantsch is the host of the podcast Rising Stars, which features conversations with young brass players. One goal of the podcast is to increase visibility of people from underrepresented demographics in the world of brass music.

"I want young players who are just starting out to be able to see themselves in people who are already in the field," she said.

Her guests on the podcast have discussed everything from mental health and wellness to racism and sexism. An upcoming episode will include a panel of guests discussing how pregnancy affects their brass playing.

"I think it's important to talk about the things that are difficult to talk about," Jantsch explained.

Jantsch recently founded Tubas for Good, a non-profit dedicated to creating a library of tubas and euphoniums for young musicians in the Philadelphia area.

All proceeds from sales of her recordings and transcriptions (available here) support Tubas for Good.

Jantsch is also a founding member of Tubular, a group that bills themselves as "the best tuba cover band in the world." (Check out their Soundcloud here.)

Tubular, Jantsch said, gives its members a chance to play different music for different audiences than what they do in their day jobs. Her colleagues in the ensemble play for various military bands on the East Coast, including the drummer, who is a member of the U.S. Army Field Band.

This Friday, Jantsch will give a preview of the new concerto composed for her by Wynton Marsalis.

She initially floated the idea by Marsalis when the Philadelphia Orchestra was recording his Violin Concerto with Nicola Bendetti and Cristian Măcelaru. (This recording would go on to win a Grammy)

When Jantsch asked Marsalis if his next concerto would be for the tuba, "he didn't say no," she said, laughing. After a long journey involving her management, Marsalis's copyist, other tuba players and many others, the concerto came to fruition.

"It's so fun," she said of Marsalis's piece. "It's really approachable while still being sophisticated. That's a hard line to toe."

The concerto's official premiere with the Philadelphia Orchestra will occur next month.

Jantsch will give a preview performance of the concerto with the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra on Friday, Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Corson Auditorium.

IPR listeners are eligible for up to free tickets to this Community Connection Concert. Enter code IPRCCC when checking out at Interlochen's online box office.

Jantsch and her Philadelphia Orchestra colleagues will visit Ann Arbor in March 2022 for another performance of the concerto at Hill Auditorium.

Listen to Carol Jantsch's recent conversation with IPR on demand above.

Amanda Sewell and Carol Jantsch at IPR in November 2021
Amanda Sewell and Carol Jantsch at IPR in November 2021

Dr. Amanda Sewell is IPR's music director.